MIL-OSI UK: Sinn Féin congratulate new IFA president – Brian Stanley TD

Source: Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin congratulate new IFA president – Brian Stanley TD | Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin – On Your Side

17 December, 2019 – by Brian Stanley TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture Brian Stanley TD has congratulated Tim Cullinan on his election as the new Irish Farmer Association (IFA) President.Speaking earlier, Deputy Stanley said: “I want to congratulate Tim Cullinan on his appointment as the new President of the IFA. “I hope to work on a constructive basis Mr Cullinan. “It is essential that as we move forward, the IFA continues to fight for and protect the small family farm. “We need to see beef farmers fully supported in their campaign for a fair price. We need to see the cartel-like beef sector tackled. “There must be an emphasis by the IFA on transitioning our agriculture sector towards production that is less carbon intensive. That transition should also include an increase in on-farm afforestation. “With regards to CAP, it’s vital that we see reform towards a fairer system which favours and supports the smaller farmer. We need to impose a ceiling on €60,000 on payments and level out the payments. “Sinn Féin also hopes that the IFA will work with our party to investigate the potential for farmers to move into the renewable energy sector through Biogas and Biomass in order to provide new income streams for farmers. “2020 will be a crucial year for the Agriculture sector and we wish the new IFA President all the best with the challenges which lie ahead.” 

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MIL-OSI UK: British Secretary of State refuses to meet parties to avert health workers strike – O’Neill

Source: Sinn Féin

17 December, 2019 – by Michelle O’Neill

Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill has said the decision by the British Secretary of State to refuse a meeting with the five party leaders on the health workers’ strike is ‘regrettable’. 
Michelle O’Neill was speaking after party leaders met with the Head of the Civil Service and the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health to discuss a solution which could avert tomorrow’s strike action by health workers.
Michelle O’Neill said: 
“We met with senior civil servants today to urge them to do the right thing and provide pay parity to health workers in order to avert tomorrow’s strike action.
“There is consensus among party leaders that a resolution can be found by the British Secretary of State Julian Smith and civil servants.
 “The pay and staffing issue must not be used as a political football within the talks.
“Party leaders restated there is consensus if the Executive is restored by 13 January that we will adopt a policy to award pay parity.
 “On this basis we invited the Secretary of State to come and meet with the five party leaders, where he would provide a commitment to deliver this in the event of no agreement by that date. 
“Regrettably he refused to meet the leaders.
“Sinn Féin remains in contact with Union leaders and party leaders and we will continue in our efforts to achieve pay parity for health and social care workers.”

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MIL-OSI UK: HSE must clarify closure of long-term care beds outlined in Service Plan – Louise O’Reilly TD

Source: Sinn Féin

17 December, 2019 – by Louise O’Reilly TD

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly called on the HSE to clarify the inclusion of the closure of long-term care beds in the HSE Service Plan published today as a cost reduction measure for the coming year.
Speaking this evening, Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The HSE Service Plan on the whole is a general regurgitation of service targets from the 2019 plan which were never achieved, but the finance section contains a curious inclusion for cost reduction – the proposed closure of long-term care beds at a number of locations.
“Within the Service Plan, under the heading of ‘Areas where cost reduction is required’, it states that there is a need for the ‘Reconfiguration within the public long-term care bed stock to address value for money issues around the public cost of care in a number of locations. This will require significant internal focus and external support, up to and including the closure of beds, preferably temporarily, to deliver the 4-5% cost reduction required within 2020’.
“Effectively, this means the removal of valuable long-term care beds in 2020.
“Given the ‘Health Service Capacity Review 2018’ stated that there was a need for a 39% increase in the number of long-term care beds within the health service between now and 2031, any attempt by the HSE to close these beds is a contradiction to already existing policy.
“The CEO of the HSE and the Minister for Health need to clarify why the decision has been taken to close beds to achieve cost reduction and outline where the beds due to be closed are located.”

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MIL-OSI UK: Suspect device causing serious disruption for Springfield Road residents – Canavan

Source: Sinn Féin

Suspect device causing serious disruption for Springfield Road residents – Canavan | Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin – On Your Side

21 January, 2019

Sinn Féin Councillor Calire Canavan said tonight that the discovery of a suspect device in Lanark Way, Belfast, is causing serious disruption in the Springfield Road area.
Claire Canavan said:
“A suspect device has been found in Lanark Way which has now been closed.
“The discovery of this device has caused serious disruption with residents from Springfield Road being evacuated from their homes.
“It’s very upsetting for local residents caught up with all this disruption.
“I have been in touch with police who hope the disruption won’t last much longer.
“I have also been in touch with Belfast City Council who are organising a venue close by for residents to go to for those who may need it if the disruption continues.
“Those responsible for this incident care nothing for the people who live in this area.”

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MIL-OSI UK: Irish Sea should be submarine free zone – Hazzard

Source: Sinn Féin

Irish Sea should be submarine free zone – Hazzard | Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin – On Your Side

21 January, 2019 – by Chris Hazzard

Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said the Irish Sea should become a submarine free zone. 
Chris Hazzard was speaking after it was confirmed that a British Navy submarine was involved in a near-miss with a ferry in the Irish Sea.
The South Down MP said:
“Sinn Féin want to see an end to British military activity in Ireland in all its forms.
“The confirmation by the British Ministry of Defence that a Royal Navy submarine was involved in a near-miss with a ferry in the Irish Sea has raised serious questions.
“The lives of those on board the ferry were put at risk.
“The British Government and the British Ministry of Defence should end its submarine activity in the Irish Sea to avoid similar incidents in the future.” 

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MIL-OSI UK: ‘Brexit exposes failure of partition’ – O’Neill

Source: Sinn Féin

21 January, 2019 – by Michelle O’Neill

Brexit has exposed the failure of partition and the strategic opportunity that now exists to end it must be seized, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.
Speaking at a major event in Derry’s Guildhall to mark the 100th anniversary of An Chéad Dáil, the party Vice President called for the transition to Irish unity to begin.
“Brexit challenges all of the old assumptions about the previous constitutional, political and economic status quo in the north and south of Ireland,” Michelle O’Neill commented.
“It has exposed the undemocratic nature and failure of partition in Ireland which created an artificial future which has and will remain contested.
“The fulcrum of the Brexit crisis is the border in Ireland.
“There is a growing sense that circumstances are rapidly changing which will inevitably lead to the final break-up of the constitutional structures of the United Kingdom which Theresa May and the DUP say they are committed to preserving.”
Michelle O’Neill said the Sinn Féin leadership had made it clear to British Prime Minister Theresa May in the event of a no-deal crash-out Brexit that it is absolutely incumbent on the British government to put the constitutional future to the people here through a unity referendum.
Michelle O’Neill said, “The Sinn Féin leadership has met with the British Prime Minister and the British Secretary of State over the past few months.
“We have made it clear that in the case of a Brexit crash-out and no-deal scenario that it is absolutely incumbent on them to put the constitutional future to the people here through a unity referendum.
“Their planned imposition of Brexit in Ireland once again demonstrates the failure of partition, and exposes further the gaping democratic deficit inherent in a partitioned Ireland.
“People from across this society, and even those of a British identity, are questioning what will be the merits, benefits of staying within the union after Brexit.
“The EU has said in the event of reunification the whole of Ireland will automatically be subsumed back into the EU.
“So the debate on our constitutional future is as much about our relationship with Europe as it is about Ireland itself.
“The Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful democratic pathway to Irish Unity.
“There will be no unilateral rewriting of the Agreement by Theresa May, or anyone else, because it is an international Treaty lodged at the UN and had the overwhelming support of the majority of people who live on this island and who voted in support of it 20 years ago.
“The issue of Irish Unity has taken on a new dynamic because of Brexit.
“Beyond Brexit demographics are changing and so too is the political landscape.
“This cannot be ignored. A unity referendum will be held.
“The political momentum on change is moving in that direction.
“The Good Friday Agreement gives people the opportunity and choice to decide our future together.
“Now on the centenary anniversary of the First Dáil there is an onus on the Irish government to plan for unity. To become a persuader for unity. To build the maximum agreement and for all progressive nationalists and republicans to secure and win a referendum on unity.” 
Full text of Michelle O’Neill’s speech at tonight’s event in the Guildhall, Derry to mark the 100th anniversary of An Chéad Dáil, 
INTRODUCTION
A chairde agus chomrádaithe
I want to begin by condemning the weekend bomb attack on Bishop Street, here in Derry City and the alerts which have taken place today.
It’s well past time for those involved in such actions to turn the page and support the task of advancing the peace process and republican and democratic goals or close the book, because there is zero support for armed actions in this society. 
We will not allow these individuals to deflect us from this task or destroy the process of peace-building. 
There is absolutely no justification for these actions. The GFA provides a democratic and peaceful avenue to pursue political change including the central republican objective of unifying our country. 
This bombing is totally unacceptable and, ironically, comes at a time when support for a peaceful  democratic  transition to a United Ireland as set out in the GFA is at an all-time high.
There is no support or tolerance for these types of actions. Those involved need to accept that reality.
That said, it is fantastic to join you all here in Derry’s Guildhall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First Dáil Éireann.
When the TDs of An Chéad Dáil met in the Round Room of Dublin’s Mansion House a century ago, they did so as the legitimate and democratic representatives of the Irish people.
They were the embodiment of a nation’s desire to be free.
Just weeks earlier, in the historic election of December 1918, the country had overwhelmingly voted to finally break the connection with England which then – as now – was the source of so many Irish ills.
ACTIVE ABSTENTIONISM
Women and men came together from every class, creed and background to reject British interference in Ireland and vote for abstentionist Sinn Féin MPs.
Of a total of 105 seats, 73 were won by Sinn Féin candidates who refused to take their seats at Westminster and instead established the First Dáil.
That election – and that act of democratic defiance – has important parallels for us today.
When nationalist and republican Ireland turned their backs on Westminster in 1918, they did so because they knew the solutions to Irish problems would never be found in London, where they were created in the first place.
This was not just about the taking of an oath of allegiance to an English Queen.
That was certainly part of the equation.
But the key issue was and is one of sovereignty.
Today, once again, the nationalist people of the North have turned their back on Westminster, electing seven Sinn Féin all-Ireland abstentionist MPs to represent their best interests.
And it is an insult to that electorate when Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the SDLP demand that these MPs abandon the mandate they have been given by the people in order to go to Westminster, swear an oath to obey a foreign monarch and take their place on the backbenches of historical irrelevance.
With breath-taking hypocrisy, these same parties will all line up to celebrate and commemorate the democratic patriots of 1919.
But they are nothing more than rhetorical republicans and our message to them is clear.
Just like the patriots of An Chéad Dáil, Sinn Féin will not be sending Irish representatives to Westminster.
We as Irish republicans believe in the sovereignty of the Irish people.
We are opposed to monarchies and elites of all kinds.
Those who voted for Sinn Féin in election after election see no disadvantage in our MPs being active abstentionists.
Active abstentionism is about energetically representing citizens and providing republican leadership.
It’s about working with those citizens as equals and empowering communities to effectively fight for their rights, whether they are cultural rights, economic, national or political rights.
Sinn Féin has an unparalleled reputation in this regard, and do not let anyone tell us otherwise.
We won’t take lectures from Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar, Colum Eastwood or anybody else!
DEMOCRATIC PROGRAMME
The vision of the Proclamation; the courage and generosity of the men and women of 1916, and of those who met in the Mansion House three years later, contributed to the production of that Democratic Programme of the First Dáil.
The Irish Republic they established 100 years ago was based on the proposition that the people are sovereign and that the public right and welfare comes before the interests of private profit and property.
A real Republic, where people are citizens, not subjects; where they have fundamental rights, not arbitrary privileges; where there is equality, not elitism; and where there is unity, not partition and division.
Never was that principle of the Democratic Programme needed more than it is now 100 years on.
The Rising and the establishment of the First Dáil was a declaration of freedom heard all around the world.
The patriots of this revolutionary period believed that a better Ireland is possible.
But what of Britain’s response to Ireland’s peacefully declared and democratically endorsed desire for freedom in 1919?
Predictably, the self-declared mother of democracy refused to recognise the democratic will of the Irish people.
Irish democracy meant nothing to England. It was collateral damage in Britain’s wider agenda to protect and expand the empire in its war with the other European powers.
An Chéad Dáil was quickly declared illegal and the Irish people were forced to mount a revolutionary war in order to assert their right to national sovereignty.
That history has always reverberated through Irish politics and we are still dealing with the legacy of it today.
Almost 100 years later the two states created by partition have failed to meet the objectives or vision set out in the Proclamation and the Democratic Programme.
Partition created two narrow, conservative, elitist, sectarian regimes.
In the North a deeply sectarian unionist regime institutionalised decades of inequality and injustice which the nationalist and republican people confronted and smashed.
In the south poverty, emigration and inequality was rampant.
NEW IRELAND AND REAL REPUBLIC
Today in 2019 Sinn Féin remains on the frontline confronting these injustices too.
But, much more must be done.
We are for a new Ireland that builds, repairs and organises this society into one that is democratic and inclusive, and based on equality, freedom and social solidarity.
A new Republic that embraces the ethos of the Proclamation and the Democratic Programme and shares its wealth more equitably, looks after its aged and its young, provides full rights for people with disabilities, liberates women, and delivers the highest standards of public services accessible to every citizen.
There are immediate challenges facing those of us who want a united independent Ireland.
These include getting the Irish government to change its policy from one of acquiescing to the union with Britain to one of becoming a persuader for Irish unity; getting the Irish government to begin preparations for Irish unity; and lastly engaging with those of an Ulster British identity on the type of Ireland we want to create.
I believe that the opportunities for real change are within our grasp.
Sinn Féin, with others, can unite our people and unite our country, to help build, shape and lead a new, modern and progressive Ireland.
One in which all identities and traditions have a place and the opportunity to contribute to our shared nation – together.
Sinn Féin is about transforming Ireland and uniting our country for everyone.
This is our raison d’être as a political movement.
We don’t want to hark back to old Ireland.
We are not sentimentalists – we are realists.
We want to build, shape and be part of leading a New Ireland.
We don’t want to face inwards and talk about a united Ireland.
We want us to face outwards and listen to those who don’t want a united Ireland.
Because it is our task to persuade those people, sectors and communities of why it’s in their best economic and political interests to share power not only at Stormont – but on an All-Ireland basis together.
I believe that Irish unity, on the basis of equality, offers the best future for all the people of our island.
Therefore, we need to listen and understand unionist fears, because they too must belong.
Not as a minority.
But as equals and critically as nation builders and political leaders.
Those of us who are united Irelanders must sell our vision.
We are confident about the economic, social and political benefits that a new Ireland will bring.
BREXIT
Brexit has once more brought into sharp focus the contradiction of partition at the heart of Irish politics.
It has created huge uncertainty and directly challenges democracy and Irish national interests.
Just as in 1918/19, the British Parliament is again ignoring the democratic will of the Irish people who do not want Brexit and see there is no good in it for Ireland.
Once again, Britain views our democracy, our economy and the future of our country as collateral damage in their wider European agenda. Our interests are expendable to them.
That has always been the way – and always will be.
Irish interests will never be best served in an English parliament. Even with the best will in the world that would still be the case.
Our future, our potential, our prosperity as a nation rests in the reunification of our country. That is the best way to serve the needs of all our people. That is the best way to maximise the resources of our island.
Our priority is to defend the Good Friday Agreement which is under constant attack from Tory/DUP Brexiteers; and to advance the Irish peace process; the political and constitutional arrangements that were achieved as a result of the Good Friday and subsequent agreements, and our republican objective of Irish reunification.
This is the pathway to success.
There is no other way.
A huge re-evaluation has been provoked about the island’s economic and political future including those of a unionist or British identity in the six counties.
A positive, national conversation about how our constitutional, political and economic future can be reimagined and redesigned has been started by civic and progressive nationalists – but the Irish Government must take their head out of the sands and understand that this reality is in fact occurring.
That the political and demographic landscape on the island is changing and they must fulfil their constitutional obligations by planning for constitutional change and a referendum on Irish unity.
Real potential now exists for a mature, rational and inclusive conversation in Ireland about our shared future – about a new relationship between Ireland and Britain, and between the island of Ireland, Europe itself, and the international community.
Ireland’s future, North and South, should be allowed to evolve in the context of new, progressive, democratic international relationships based upon social solidarity and mutual democratic co-operation.
Brexit challenges all of the old assumptions about the previous constitutional, political and economic status quo in the north and south of Ireland.
It has exposed the undemocratic nature and failure of partition in Ireland which created an artificial future which has and will remain contested.
The fulcrum of the Brexit crisis is the border in Ireland.
A strategic opportunity exists to maximise the democratic argument for an end to partition and to persuade for Irish unity, both domestically and internationally.
A new phase of political change is not only emerging – it has arrived – and the significant strategic political influence of the international community should now assist with planning for the transition towards a new, agreed, united Ireland.
It is time to end the division of Ireland and prepare the transition to Irish unity.
CONCLUSION
Citizens are looking to the future to see where their best interests are served.
Change is in the air.
Over the past two elections in the north the unionist majority has gone.
The notion of a perpetual unionist majority – the very basis of partition – is gone.
Be in no doubt that a Unity Referendum is coming, and we are preparing for it.
But the ultimate task is to win it.
The Irish people were denied their democratic entitlements in 1919 when the men and women of An Chéad Dáil sat for the first time.
Today, Sinn Féin’s aim is exactly the same as it was then – to end the connection with England and establish a genuine all-Ireland Republic.
That is our vision. That is our aim. That is our goal.
And that, is what this generation of republicans is going to achieve.
Míle buóochas agus go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.”

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MIL-OSI UK: Maskey welcomes PIP probe

Source: Sinn Féin

21 January, 2019 – by Alex Maskey

Sinn Féin Welfare Spokesperson Alex Maskey has welcomed confirmation that the Public Services Ombudsman is to launch an investigation into the handling of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefits.
The West Belfast MLA was commenting after the Ombudsman Marie Anderson announced that her office would use new powers to probe how the Department of Communities has been processing the benefit which replaced the Disability Living Allowance. 
Alex Maskey commented: “A series of recent cases have exposed the cruel and arbitrary nature of the PIP assessments being carried out by Capita on behalf of the Department for Communities.
“We do not believe here is any possible justification for the cruel way in which many of these assessments are being conducted. The inexplicable scoring of severely disabled people has also caused considerable and understandable public anger.
“A Sinn Féin delegation met with the Ombudsman in December to ask for an investigation into the way the assessments are being carried out because it is our view that the department and Capita are failing in their duty of care to vulnerable people.
“I very much welcome today’s announcement by the Ombudsman because it is absolutely clear that the roll-out of PIP assessments needs to be probed and these cruel and unnecessary checks brought to an end.”

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MIL-OSI UK: Eastwood: London pandering to DUP and undermining NI interests

Source: Social Democratic and Labour Party of Northern Ireland

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA has hit out at the British Prime Minister following her statement in the Commons, saying her commitment to the Good Friday Agreement was “superficial”. The Foyle MLA stated: “It is not possible to fluff the backstop” and he urged politicians in the North of Ireland to “yield power” to stop the Brexit chaos as “London panders to the DUP against Northern Ireland’s interests.”

Mr Eastwood commented:

“It is crystal clear that the British Government’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement is superficial. Theresa May can’t have it both ways. She cannot drag Northern Ireland out of the EU without agreeing the Backstop and expect to avoid a hard border. We have been through this time and time again – but Theresa May either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care. However the SDLP, the EU and the Irish Government are clear that the Backstop is non-negotiable.

“Despite people in Northern Ireland widely supporting the backstop, the British Government continues to shamelessly pander to the DUP against the interests of people here.

“Today’s statement proves only one point – that the British State is in chaos. Boxed into a corner, the Prime Minister is running out of time and running out of options; clinging to the DUP to help her hold onto power – despite the fact the DUP do not represent our interests nor the views of the majority of people in the North.

“We have reached a critical point and with that politicians here cannot simply point the finger. Sinn Féin, despite being gifted power to sit in Westminster, have abdicated their responsibilities. They have let the DUP take back control and silence the voice of Irish nationalism. Politicians now need to yield the power given to them to stop this Brexit chaos, that’s both in Westminster and in Stormont. Time is up and compromising our peace and our freedoms on this island is not an option. The SDLP want to go back to Stormont, we want Irish voices fighting against the DUP and Tories.”

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MIL-OSI UK: Flynn seeks update on Holywell Mental Health Hospital

Source: Sinn Féin

21 January, 2019 – by Órlaithí Flynn

Sinn Féin Mental Health spokesperson Órlaithí Flynn has written to the Department for Finance to ask for an update on Holywell Hospital’s Business Case. 
Holywell in Causeway Hospital currently provides inpatient mental health beds for the Northern Trust area. The Business Case proposes a new unit providing over 130 inpatient beds covering PICU, dementia and addiction services.
The West Belfast MLA said:
“Last May I was part of a Sinn Féin delegation that visited Holywell Hospital. The visit confirmed to me the pressing need for a new build. 
“At that time the Department of Finance said the new build was still being appraised.
“I have again written to the Department of Finance to ask for an update and to request that the business case is expedited. The case for a new hospital is clear and pressing.”

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MIL-OSI UK: Risk of no-deal shows up Government’s lack of preparedness – David Cullinane TD

Source: Sinn Féin

Risk of no-deal shows up Government’s lack of preparedness – David Cullinane TD | Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin – On Your Side

21 January, 2019 – by David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane TD has said today that the refusal of Theresa May to rule out a no-deal Brexit brings into sharp focus the unpreparedness of the Irish government for such an event, and that protections must be put in place to secure businesses, citizens, and jobs. Deputy Cullinane said: “Today was Groundhog Day for Theresa May. “Instead of a Plan B we got a rehash of previous statements and a commitment to inclusivity that is two years to late. “It is clear that Tory bickering and intransigence has increased the threat of a no-deal Brexit. “This brings into sharp focus the lack of preparedness by the Irish government for such an outcome. “We need supports for SMEs in vulnerable sectors, an easing State aid rules; targeted capital investment in ports, roads, and public transport; investment in health and housing to ease the cost of living; and we need protections for the north, including voting rights in EU elections, legal securities for the Common Travel area, and preparation for a border Poll in the event of a hard Brexit. “These are the things that are needed, and not a waving of the hands by an Taoiseach and Tánaiste as if there is nothing to see here. “Theresa May today has increased the threat of a no-deal Brexit, and we need action to prepare for this scenario.”

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